Saturday, November 30, 2013

My Little Gluttons--Are They Worth It?

I was walking with a friend earlier this week, and we were talking about how much we are spending to feed the little feathered gluttons in our yards. I haven't done real well this year tracking my birding expenses, but I know I spend a lot. Not just on food, but gas, books, magazines, memberships, donations, equipment, etc.

Sometimes I wonder whether I should be spending that money on my hobby. There are so many other things I could be spending that money for.  That thinking lasts about 30 seconds...maybe. I know the birds don't need the food I put out for their survival. I don't feed the birds for them; I feed them for me. I spend a couple of hours walking the trails in the parks to watch the birds, not for them, but for me. I volunteer at Wild Bird Rescue for my satisfaction when I get to see a beautiful bird released that would have died or I get to see the fascination on the faces of people who have never had the opportunity to see a hawk or an owl up close.

If I went out to dinner, I would enjoy that and wouldn't begrudge the $20 or $30 I would spend. I could go to the movies, and between the ticket and the popcorn (you can't go to the movies without popcorn) I would spend $20. Each of these things would last a couple of hours, at most. I spend $20 or $30 on a bag of bird food and I can get many hours of enjoyment watching the birds over the course of a week. Looked at that way, I think I am getting good value for the dollar.

In addition, when I go out birding, I am getting good exercise and lowering my stress level. I always feel better after a few hours away from all of the other "To-Do" things that crowd the day.

So yes, even if most of the birds I am getting right now at my feeders are not the ones I most want to see, they are worth every penny. I added two more feeders to my yard today...

Good birding!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Trying to Shop for a Birdwatcher?

Every once in a while I try to help those who have birdwatchers on their Christmas lists by providing some ideas. I don't do this every year, but if you want to go back through some previous lists, here is the link to the 2009 blog post and the 2011 blog post. They are still perfectly valid and I promise your birding family members and friends will love the gift. Since both of these posts are extensive, I won't go back through all of the ideas, but instead focus on a few newer choices.

Although I have reviewed several books this year, here are my suggestions for some newly published bird books your birding friend may very well not have: The Warbler Guide and The Crossley Guide: Raptors. There are other fine books out there, but these two are a cut above.

If you have people on your list who are trying to improve their field birding skills, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has some excellent webinars for a relatively low cost. They also have some other, more intensive courses that are more expensive. For a variety of learning opportunities, check out their website. I've taken some of these courses myself. A Cornell membership would be welcomed by most birders--the recipient would get a beautiful magazine as part of their membership and have the opportunity to participate in several citizen science activities if they are interested.

Wild Birds Unlimited in Wichita Falls also has some nice gifts: High quality T-shirts, books, binoculars, feeders and birdseed would be welcome gifts.

For the birder with everything, I would again recommend a donation to a birding organization. Wild Bird Rescue is always in need of monetary donations, especially to support their Avian Ambassador program. Who wouldn't want to sponsor a hawk or an owl?

Good luck with your Christmas shopping!

Good birding!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Christmas Bird Count Just Around the Corner

Me, studying my field guide, trying to decipher a sparrow
The 2013 Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is just around the corner. The North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club will be sponsoring the Wichita Falls count on Saturday, December 14.

This is the 114th year for this citizen science project, sponsored by the Audubon Society. The CBC is the longest running citizen science project in the world, with over 63,00 participants counting every bird they see in one of 2,300 15-mile diameter circles.

I don't know exactly when the Wichita Falls count circle started, but it has been awhile. The center of the circle is located at FM 369 and Kavorik Rd. Traditionally the club has divided the circle into three parts, with different groups birding each segment. This allows the club to be more thorough in covering the circle. We'll be doing the same this year. Each section has a team captain that organizes the team for his/her area. The captains will decide when/where their team members will meet, what time they'll start the count and the route. They are also responsible for compiling their team's data before the count supper. This year, the captains and their areas are:

  - Wichita Falls: Includes Lucy Park and most of the the city area. Some walking and quite a bit of driving. Team captain is Terry McKee.
  - Lake Wichita: Includes the area of Wichita Falls south of Southwest Parkway to include Lake Wichita, out to Holliday and along many of the country roads. A lot of walking in the Wichita Park and Lake Wichita and a lot of driving as well. Team captain is Penny Miller.
  - Iowa Park: Includes Iowa Park and a lot of countryside nearby. Some walking, but mostly driving. Team captain is Jimmy Hoover.

The Christmas Bird Count is a great event for a new or inexperienced birder. Someone in the group will be familiar with the birds, but they need help with recordkeeping and sighting birds. The pace is fairly leisurely, so there is time to talk about the birds and their identification. You also have a chance to learn some of the best birding spots in the area for return visits on your own. Participants don't have to take part the entire day. You can arrange to meet up with the group at a specific place and time and stop when you need to leave. If you're interested in taking part, you can email me at, and I'll hook you up with one of the team captains.

The teams then converge at the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club count supper to combine the results of the three teams to submit to Audubon. The atmosphere is a little competitive to see which team got the most birds or the "best" bird.  Normally the count supper is the evening of the count. However, this year, some of our members have tickets to the Wichita Falls Symphony concert that same night, so we are moving the count supper to Tuesday night. It will serve as both the count supper and the club Christmas party. You don't have to participate in the count to participate in the count supper. We often have members who can't take part in the count for some reason, but want to hear about what they missed. If you're interested in taking part in the count supper, again email, and I'll give you the address.

Hope you can take part for some or all of the day.

Good birding!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Beautiful Morning

Hooded Merganser pair, Photo by Footwarrior, Wikimedia Commons
I haven't really been out much, but decided to get out this morning--it was just too beautiful to be inside all day.

On my way from the house, I decided to take a quick tour through Rosemont Cemetery. I don't know why I still go through there since they cleared out the side area where I used to see the turkeys. Really nothing much to see there as a rule.  Typical birds seen this morning were: pigeon, blue jay and mockingbird.

I then drove to the Lake Wichita spillway and the boat ramp. Much more productive. Of course, the water is still very low, although there is a little more water there now than the last time I was there. The ducks are back. One of my favorite birds, hooded merganser, was present. There were 5 birds on the lake that I saw. I also
American pipit. Photo by Jonathan Hornung via Wikimedia Commons
saw my first American pipits of the year. These birds are usually heard first. I heard one and then saw one flitting across the ground. Once it lands, you will notice the bird bobbing its tail.

I then drove down Rathgeber Rd. There was nothing in the tanks along that road. I took a quick pass by Stone Lake, noting a few gadwall and some northern shoveler. I then went through Crestview cemetery. The best birds there were some wigeon and ring-necked ducks.

Overall, a pretty good morning. Glad I decided to get outdoors. Here's a summary of all birds seen this morning: ring-billed gull, solitary sandpiper, sanderling, killdeer, greater yellowlegs, lesser yellowlegs, hooded merganser, mallard duck, northern shoveler, ruddy duck, blue-winged teal, gadwall, American wigeon, Canada goose, American kestrel, red-tailed hawk, Eurasian collared dove, rock pigeon, blue jay, American robin, American pipit, northern mockingbird, phoebe, meadowlark sp., red-winged blackbird, great-tailed grackle, European starling, white-crowned sparrow, house sparrow.

Good birding!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Cool Bird Word

I had to share this one. If you're on Facebook, look up the page, Word Porn. Lots of interesting words. This morning's word was a great one for bird lovers!